Former Free State Premier Ace Magashule
Just a week after the African National Congress (ANC) announced its intention to expel former secretary-general Ace Magashule, President Cyril Ramaphosa has approved a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the dealings of the Free State premier's office, particularly those during Magashule's tenure.
This opens the door for law enforcement officials to shine a light on Magashule's bursary payments to students while he was the Free State premier, which has been shrouded in controversy.
The recent development was revealed through a proclamation by the president on Friday.
In the proclamation, Ramaphosa states that the SIU may investigate allegations that have been made concerning the affairs of the Office of the Premier of the Free State.
It's alleged that there may have been "serious maladministration in connection with the affairs of the Office of the Premier; improper or unlawful conduct by employees of the Office of the Premier; and that unlawful expenditure of public money" may have occurred as a result of Magashule's bursary scheme.
Two years ago, News24's sister publication, City Press, reported that a director at the Free State premier's office during Magashule's tenure requested exorbitant scholarships for herself, a "private individual", and two government officials to study in the US.
At the time, Sheila Goldinah Mazibuko was the director of intergovernmental relations.
The scholarships were detailed in a report, according to City Press, titled "Approval for scholarships for four students to study at Bay Atlantic University in Washington DC in the US and special leave for three Free State provincial government officials".
The request was said to have been submitted by Mazibuko on 10 December 2017, and approved by Magashule.
According to her request, each recipient was awarded close to R1-million a year to study towards a two-year executive master's in business administration (MBA) programme at the Washington-based university.
A comparison with other local universities showed that the University of Cape Town offered the same programme for R328 000 a year per student at the time. Still, according to the report, each recipient received $79 913, which translated to R926 741 a year at the time.
Magashule was quoted as having said at the time: "I don't deal with processes ... When it comes to me, I note or I approve … Nothing wrong happened there."
The proclamation by Ramaphosa only instructs the SIU to investigate whether there was any "unlawful or improper conduct by any person, which has caused or may cause serious harm to the interests of the public or any category thereof.
It further states that the SIU should look into incidents "that took place between 1 January 2018 and the date of publication of this proclamation, or which took place before 1 January 2018 or after the date of publication of this proclamation, but are relevant to, connected with, incidental or ancillary to the matters mentioned in the schedule or involve the same persons, entities or contracts investigated under the authority of this proclamation".
Magashule has maintained his innocence, claiming that all allegations against him are politically motivated, given his political beliefs, which were poles apart from that of the president and his allies who now dominate the ANC's national executive committee, the party's highest decision-making body.